Last month, at the age of 31, I experienced something for the very first time in my life. I’m not saying I’m ‘old,’ but these firsts happen a little less frequently than they did at the beginning of my last decade.
I applied for a job that I really (rilly rilly rilly!!!) wanted – not a first.
I was contacted for an interview – not a first.
I made it to the second round of interviews and did really well – not a first.
I wasn’t hired for that job – FIRST.
I grew up in the gifted program. In some school systems this is called advanced learning.
I remember being in grade one and two, before it started, being one of those insufferable students who’d throw down my pencil in victory when I finished a test long before the time given. I remember almost falling out of my seat with my hand wiggling above my head, nearly exploding the correct answer to a teacher’s inquiry.
I remember taking tests that involved problem solving with shapes and colours and math problems and mazes. I remember seeing that there were more than one way to solve one of those mazes, and actively deciding to take the longer, harder route because it was going to be fun.
That maze, I’m sure, is what got me into the gifted program the following year, where I went to a brand new school, surrounded by other students who knew all the answers, or were eager to learn how to find those answers when they didn’t know them.
And so, for the next ten years of my life, I was part of that program that encouraged alternative thinking and different paradigms, and generally persuaded thinking ‘outside the box,’ or maze or whatever set parameters we were initially given.
We were a cohort of students who grew up thinking, being told, then ‘knowing’ that we were really smart, and that deviations from the norm were brilliant ‘exceptions,’ not problematic diversions. If we were acting out in class, it was because we ‘weren’t being challenged enough.’
I distinctly remember being in grade eight french and our class was being particularly devious; insubordinate even. We were pre-teens and we were being brats. But our teacher said something I’ll never forget. She said to us “I would expect this behaviour from the home school students, but NOT from the gifted ones.” I lost it. I told her she was wrong to attribute our capacity for good behaviour to our learning style, and, basically, that she was stupid for thinking so. I was sent to the office and I was glad. I remember thinking, ‘Well good! She should learn how to discipline us children. We’re being bad!’
Another memory I have is from my grade twelve family studies course, where my final project was about the gifted program, and how it was basically bullsh** because of COURSE we were ‘smarter’; we were being given more opportunities to express our intelligence in unique ways. I proposed that the grading system was unrealistic. It wasn’t uncommon to see english students with papers and projects graded above 100% once they received bonuses for going above and beyond. I argued that what the system was doing was rewarding us for NOT following instructions and making us think that no matter what we did/produced, we’d be praised and applauded. Essentially, the gifted program was removing the component of school that we all needed the most – exposure to constructive criticism. We were missing out on knowing that even though we were ‘great’ and ‘smart’ that it sometimes wasn’t enough, and we needed to understand how to best adapt our skills and practices into new situations. On that final project, I got 110%.
Now, I’m not suggesting that being in that program wasn’t beneficial for me in many ways. I am sure that a lot of my best skills were developed during that time including astute observation, fast and effective brainstorming, diplomacy in group work, and comfort in speaking in front of crowds. The thing I AM saying though, is that I wasn’t given a lot of opportunity to reflect on failure.
So, in the spirit of the type of rationalization and eternal optimism I learned early and never really gave up, I’m going to thank the hiring manager for choosing the other candidate. It’s been humbling and it’s given me the chance to reflect on what it is that I need to improve about myself for future opportunities that I really (rilly rilly rilly!) want, or ones I don’t even know exist yet.
Have an idea? Hire me!